Clark County Air Quality is Safe, Despite New EPA Designation
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited Clark County for "non-attainment" of its new ozone pollution standard this week. The classification is no cause for alarm or concern, according to Clark County Dept. of Air Quality officials.
"We are not producing more ground-level ozone pollution in Clark County," said Department of Air Quality Director Marci Henson. "The EPA lowered the standard—which we expected—and now we will continue to strive to minimize air pollution as we have always done. It's like the dance, the limbo. The EPA lowered the bar and we have to limbo a little lower now."
Seventy Parts per Billion
On Monday, the EPA took steps to implement the national air quality standards for ozone that were issued in 2015. As a result, Clark County was designated as for "non-attainment" for ozone. The new, eight-hour standard for ground-level ozone is 70 parts per billion (ppb), a reduction from the previous 75 ppb standard.
"We averaged about 74 parts per billion last year," Henson said. "That is consistent with our downward trend for ground-level ozone."
What is Ozone?
Ozone is a colorless gas that exists naturally in the Earth's upper atmosphere. At ground level, ozone is a key ingredient of urban smog that can build up during the day in the hottest months of the year because of strong sunlight, hot temperatures, gasoline and chemical vapors, and pollutants from automobiles, wildfires and regional transport. Exposure to ozone can irritate your respiratory system and cause coughing, a sore throat, chest pain and shortness of breath even in healthy people, according to the EPA.
Clark County's non-attainment status is listed as "marginal," by the EPA, which is the lowest of five classifications. In addition to enforcing compliance with EPA regulations on regional business and industry, Air Quality continues to monitor and report on air quality to inform the public of issues with ozone, dust, smoke and other pollutants. Clark County is currently under a seasonal ozone advisory until Sept. 30.
"This new designation from the EPA doesn't change our mission or our goals," Henson said. "The Air Quality staff will continue to develop solutions that we're confident will help us achieve attainment status within the next few years."
Clark County is a dynamic and innovative organization dedicated to providing top-quality service with integrity, respect and accountability. With jurisdiction over the world-famous Las Vegas Strip and covering an area the size of New Jersey, Clark is the nation's 14th-largest county and provides extensive regional services to more than 2.25 million citizens and 45.5 million visitors a year (including Mesquite, Laughlin and Primm). Included are the nation's 8th-busiest airport, air quality compliance, social services and the state's largest public hospital, University Medical Center. The County also provides municipal services that are traditionally provided by cities to about 1 million residents in the unincorporated area. Those include fire protection, roads and other public works, parks and recreation, and planning and development.